FHWA assigns I-80 toll proposal to specific program

| 10/8/2007

The Federal Highway Administration has given its initial endorsement to a proposal to convert Interstate 80 into a toll road in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Joseph Brimmeier applied Aug. 17 for FHWA to grant authority to toll the 311-mile I-80.

FHWA responded with a letter to let Brimmeier know the proposal would be considered under the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program – one of six FHWA programs in place to authorize interstate tolling.

Federal law prohibits interstate tolling outside of provision in 2005 federal transportation legislation known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users – or SAFETEA-LU – which created six pilot tolling programs and other FHWA programs such as “Corridors of the Future.”

For the I-80 proposal to become a reality, the U.S. Department of Transportation must still sign off on it.

Truckers and other highway users remain opposed to interstate tolling, which they say amounts to a second tax on roads that have already been built and paid for with federal funds.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association drew truckers and lawmakers together on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg on Sept. 24 to rally against the I-80 proposal.

State Rep. Scott Hutchinson, R-Verango, introduced HB1878 in the state House to repeal Gov. Ed Rendell’s transportation budget and the I-80 tolling proposal. Hutchinson’s bill could be up for consideration this fall.

On a national scale, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, and Rep. John Peterson, R-PA, introduced legislation in September to halt three of FHWA’s tolling programs for interstates, including the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program.

The federal lawmakers are specifically targeting efforts in their respective states relating to interstate tolling.

Both of their bills received approval as amendments to appropriations legislation.

The Senate and House have not yet formed a conference committee to reconcile the language in the two versions of appropriations bills.

– By David Tanner, staff writer